A Lantern of Hope

Several days ago I asked God to show me how he is working in my life. As you could probably ascertain from my last blog post, I’ve been having a hard time seeing this. Being able to admit what I did in the last post is one of his answers and then something that happened yesterday, which I now share:

All day I was feeling the pointlessness of my existence. This wasn’t situational, necessarily.  It wasn’t a “big day,”  other than the rambling, normal celebration of a friend’s birthday. I had spent all day with these friends chatting, eating, staring off into space, being entertained by their children, taking photos with my cell phone…

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If God

I‘m not doing well with words lately. Every time I’ve tried to speak it’s felt like pulling frozen taffy.

Yesterday morning I talked to a good friend of mine who is in Ireland. Somehow she said all of the things I’ve been trying (and failing) to say for the last few weeks. 

I’ve been asking God some big questions recently and while waiting to hear back from him, I’ve gotten trapped under a huge pile of words and emotions. It hasn’t been pretty. What I know about God speaking is that he usually does it quickly. Nevertheless, I have this sense of waiting on him.

There’s something of Romans 7-8 in all of my personal struggles. Usually, the first half of any hard time consists of me wrestling with myself and losing. At some point I remember the character of God and I’m encouraged to stop looking at myself and start looking at him. This is when I move into chapter 8 of Romans and I begin (again) to believe that he is good and that in my total weakness, he is strong and loving.

And Paul’s questions are the real thing, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

I also read yesterday, “The moment you realize that God wants good for you more than you want good for yourself, is the moment that you let go.” – Adam Smith

It’s not to say that everything will be easy, but there is real and solid peace involved in struggling with instead of against God. He is so good, so loving and so much bigger than everything we face… even when what we face is our own selves.

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Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ…

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Rattling the Rafters

This last week in class the speaker (Dan Shannon) spent a few hours teaching us (a bit of) what he knows about “simple church planting.” He worked for a few years with a man named Floyd McClung in South Africa with an organization called All Nations. Considering that I have only heard the most basic teaching about this stuff, I feel intimidated to retell it on the world wide web, but I want to at least process a bit of these running thoughts in my head….

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As You Loved Me

Do you ever wonder what Paul was like in person? Until I actually studied the New Testament as a whole I pictured him so pious and judgmental. After reading all of his letters and really considering what his life looked like, it’s impossible to remember how I got to those assumptions about him.

I do remember being vastly comforted  by the book of 2 Corinthians. I felt he must have been writing to people like me. When I discovered that the Corinthians were actually super critical of Paul, the humility with which he wrote becomes a hundred times greater. Standing in the face of those who say you are weak and explaining how much deeper your weakness goes than they could ever know… Well.. it has shown me what a deep trust and love Paul had for Jesus; how much his identity was based not on what men thought of him, but based solely on what the Father had done for him….

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Inner Healing, Outer Armor

This week the students are learning about spiritual warfare. Their speaker is a power house of a guy named Wes Tullis. His teaching method is much more circular and story oriented than our Western minds are used to, but it’s also kind of blowing my mind.

In my own DTS (in 2003)  the speaker used the book of Ephesians to teach on spiritual warfare. Things like knowing the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ. There was more to it, but her basic message was about living from that place of truth to stand against the enemy because it is God’s power which has already defeated that enemy.

Secular humanists would say there is no spiritual realm and Spiritualists (or animists, Buddhists, Hindus, etc) would say there really is no physical realm but only spiritual. As a follower of Christ, I believe that both physical and spiritual are real. Whatever your beliefs are about angels and demons, the spiritual realm is real and is intrinsically linked to what happens in the physical realm- both directions.

There are two things I want to share on this topic…

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The Unknown God

This post was birthed in the last, but when I finished writing this bit I realized it deserved its own place. Jumping off of thoughts about what might be next, I got caught up in what God is doing in the present to reveal himself.

I’ve discovered, while studying the Bible so in depth, that I have a lot to say. I can suddenly see my own context and the larger context of living… the things that make us human and human for a reason. The why of my existence along with the bigger why of existing for humanity. Not like a tidy religious package, as you might assume, but… well… It’s like Love, for example. Everyone has their perspective on love. When we spend too much time immersed in media and fake intimacy then we stop craving anything deeper,  so to others looking in on ‘media lovers’,  love looks cheap – because it is. It doesn’t cost anything. Others spend time learning that love is a list of rules, lines to not cross, words to not say and so their love might actually look like hate to others because ‘rule lovers’ have taken the idea of preferring the other person and turned it into correcting the other person. There are many other ways to look at love, my point isn’t to point out failures but to give an example of something really big that can be made small….

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Whole Hearted

Life, as a concept is much like a real human being. Blood and bone and muscles… gooey organs packed into a flesh container. It seems pretty precarious and complicated – how it functions, grows and then deteriorates. And so many things effect its processes.

There are positive equations- exercise, vegetables, sunshine, sleep. Friendship, hugs, worship of God, rest.
And negative, too- laziness, sugar, drugs, insomnia. Enemies, loneliness, self-centeredness, distraction.

We think if we just do enough of those positive things to tip the scales then life and body should be good. But there are always factors outside of our control.
And where does “inner peace” come from? Do you experience it? I know that I do and sometimes the distance between inner war and inner peace is merely shifting my focus. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing battle against whatever is coming against the peace. Sometimes I have to do battle with myself.

Where am I going with all of these random thoughts?…

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Demolition

I remember years ago that I felt like I was being deconstructed. Lately it’s much more like aggressive demolition.

How do I explain that?

Here is the interesting juxtaposition happening… reading through New Testament letters- all of them eloquently hammering home the reality that Jesus is enough. Jesus is the final word on what God thinks of me. I cannot earn His love. I don’t have to. I have His love. Book after book, page after page, this point is being shouted…..

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Kingdom of the Heart (part 1)

This has been a pretty intense week between Staff Conference and the book of Acts. I just barely got my work done and turned in on time, but pushing really hard all week (except for when I fell on my face Friday and struggled to regain motivation) was really worth it. Today I am really grateful and want to share two things I gleaned this week from the Bible. In two parts because it turns out to be a lot of words 🙂

Paul. I’ll be honest, in the past I have not been a big fan of the guy. I have often felt like there was no way I could uphold his standards. I mean, he went immediately from hard core persecuting Christians to proving that Jesus was the Christ in a very short space of time. He’s headed like a freight train in one direction, meets Jesus on the road to Damascus and BAM he’s headed the other way in an equally unstoppable manner.
There is something in Paul’s heart which encourages God to interrupt him and change his course. Paul heard Stephen’s beautiful speech (Acts 7) before the religious leaders killed him and maybe there was even something in Stephen’s face which deeply disturbed Paul. Maybe in his zeal for God he felt he was facing a powerful adversary and he himself needed to strike back with strength against whatever Stephen had. Until he met Stephen’s reason for preaching and realized that Jesus was actually the God he thought he was defending….

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